Voting Rights are Human Rights Mural - 2020
Milwaukee, WI - Internationally acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey and his Obey Giant team will begin painting a seventy-four hundred square foot mural entitled “Voting Rights Are Human Rights,” on the north side of the Colby Abbot building in downtown Milwaukee this week.The central image in this mural will feature a portrait of an African American man looking skyward, surrounded by artwork and imagery provided by five Wisconsin artists.
Through a process of conversation and sharing of design drafts, Wisconsin artists Tom Jones, Dyani White Hawk, Tyanna Buie, Niki Johnson and Claudio Martinez collaborated with Fairey to incorporate their artworks into a single cohesive mural.
“The issues of health and voting for people of color are synonymous,” says Tom Jones. “We must not be complacent in these matters. Going to the polls to have our voices heard enacts positive changes for each of our communities and ripples across the United States.”
The original photograph that the central portrait is based on was captured during a civil rights march in the mid-1960’s by photographer Steve Schapiro. Fairey met Schapiro at the opening of The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama. Fairey recalls, “As I looked through his numerous beautiful and powerful photos, we discussed the possibility of collaborating on the spot.” A firm believer in the importance of collaboration and alliance, Fairey has spent the last thirty years working with other artists and activists in the fight against social injustice.
The “Voting Rights are Human Rights” mural was originally part of a national tour to support the 2020 election season. In a financial reaction to the COVID pandemic, the largest corporate sponsor had to withdraw, cancelling the tour; however, Fairey remained committed to installing the Milwaukee mural. Fairey states, “The impetus for this project was rooted in activism and advocacy. Although the original pre-COVID funding of the project was stripped away due to the pandemic, it remains a goal of mine to work within the community of Milwaukee to lift up the urgent message of democracy and voting. We were able to get commitments for funding to cover the costs of travel and materials needed. I will donate my art, time and pay collaborators and my art team to work with me on painting the piece.”
Current community efforts surrounding the project involve seeking out potential alignment with non-profit organizations, whose missions also involve fighting voter suppression and bringing out the vote for November’s presidential election. This includes working with the Milwaukee Bucks, in a further push to use the power of their respective platforms to make a difference in the effort to encourage voting.
“We are facing voter suppression in many places in the nation, but I especially wanted to address that issue with my mural in Wisconsin since voter suppression has been such a problem in the state,” says Fairey.